By Charles J. Haymond, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 25, 2019
Members of the 55th Communications Group rake mulch April 2019, at Peter Sarpy Elementary School, Bellevue. The squadron volunteers helped install a new playground for the school. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
Members of the 55th Communications Group stand for a photo April 2019, at Peter Sarpy Elementary School, Bellevue. The school was in dire need of a new playground. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
Last fall, Bellevue West High School’s Future Business Leaders of America came up with a plan to build a playground at Peter Sarpy Elementary School.
However, after exhausting fundraising efforts, they knew they were going to need additional partners to make their vision a reality.
It didn’t take long to get buy-in from Margie Smith, PenFed Credit Union community relations specialist and Offutt Advisory Council’s 55th Communications Squadron honorary commander. Already in the market for opportunities to give back to the community, she took a tour of Peter Sarpy.
“After a tour of the non-existent playground, it was determined a new playground was desperately needed,” Smith said. “The playground before renovations was bare, old and totally uninviting.”
She immediately reached out to the 55th Communications Group to see if they could help with construction. Once they were confirmed, she gave a presentation to PenFed Foundation’s chief executive officer to request additional funding and $50,000 was awarded.
When it was time to get to work. U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brett McBee, 55th Strategic Communications Squadron NCO in-charge of quality assurance, could not wait to get his hands dirty.
“I remember getting new playground stuff when I was little, and it was great,” McBee said. “It felt good to know how pumped the kids would be to have new equipment.”
The first group of volunteers weeded and placed weed guards where the playground equipment would be assembled. They also put down a thick layer of rubber mulch in all the play areas.
“Working with the 55th Communications Group was a dream,” Smith said. “From the colonel to the young Airmen, a positive ‘we can do this’ attitude was projected in every meeting and during the construction of the playground I can count on them for everything.”
Another group of volunteers installed the equipment.
“It was amazing being a part of something that has such a huge impact of the community,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tyler Nixon, 55th CS client systems technician. “To see the excitement on the kids’ faces once they saw the new equipment was pure joy.”
From BWHS to PenFed to OAC to Team Offutt, the new playground is just another example of how well the Bellevue community works together.
“The children will enjoy the fresh air, organized activities, memories and lastly friendships that occur during recess,” Smith said. “The parents rotating in-and-out of Offutt will be talking about how well the Bellevue community appreciates the military.”